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Research & Studies

Epigenetic Effects of PTSD Remediation in Veterans Using Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study

Citation (APA style): Church, D., Yount, G., Rachlin, K., Fox, L., & Nelms, J. (2016). Epigenetic effects of PTSD remediation in veterans using Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A randomized controlled pilot study. American Journal of Health Promotion, 1-11. doi:10.1177/0890117116661154


Purpose: To assess the feasibility of measuring changes in gene expression associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment using emotional freedom techniques (EFT).

Design: Participants were randomized into an EFT group receiving EFT and treatment as usual throughout a 10-week intervention period and a group receiving only treatment as usual (TAU) during the intervention period and then receiving EFT.

Setting: A community clinic and a research institute in California.

Subjects: Sixteen veterans with clinical levels of PTSD symptoms.

Intervention: 10 hour-long sessions of EFT.

Measures: Messenger RNA levels for a focused panel of 93 genes related to PTSD. The SA-45 questionnaire, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Insomnia Severity Scale, SF-12v2 for physical impairments, and Rivermead Post-Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire.

Analysis: Pre, post-treatment and follow-up mean scores on questionnaires were assessed using repeated measures one-way ANOVA. A Student’s t test and post hoc analyses were performed on gene expression data.

Results: PTSD symptoms declined significantly in the EFT group (-53%, p < .00001). Participants maintained their gains on follow-up. Significant differential expression of six genes was found (p < .05) when comparing expression levels before and after the intervention period in participants receiving EFT.

Conclusion: Study results identify candidate gene expression correlates of successful PTSD treatment, providing guidelines for the design of further studies aimed at exploring the epigenetic effects of EFT.


gene expression, epigenetics, EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder